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I am sensing a prevailing wind in marketing that direct marketers need to be wary of – the implicit criticism of direct marketers from those calling for more brand building from companies.

Russell Parsons

The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s latest Confidence Monitor carried out by Deloitte reports confidence among your peers inching up. However, with news of the improving outlook came a stark warning delivered by Deloitte’s Nick Turner.

Reacting to the news 75 per cent of marketing departments are adopting low-risk strategies targeting organic growth within their existing customer base, the head of marketing and insight practice said: “Marketers’ confidence in their ability to measure short term response-driven marketing may be at the cost of less tangible long term brand building.”

His comments come a few weeks after WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell delivered a rallying call to marketers to stop penny pinching and invest in the health of brands.

Turner didn’t mention it by name but his description of “response-driven marketing” pretty much nails direct marketing.

He has a point, sort of. Companies wary of the prevailing economic winds have tended to gravitate towards direct marketing because it is measurable, low cost and therefore efficient.

Such attributes are hardly a stick to beat the channel with and should be lauded. It is true, however, that if used exclusively and at the expense of longer-term brand building then you risk stripping your brand of equity.

As discussed last week, many in the daily deals sector are suffering because they have solely focused on response driven marketing without stopping to build their brands and embed their values in consumers’ minds

A balance has to be struck. Direct marketing faces a challenge in, when we get there, the post recessionary world. How to be seen as something other than a cheap, short-term fix until companies can afford the real business of brand building.

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